LONG BEACH — A divided Pacific County PUD board approved a 3 percent wage increase for administrative and non-union employees of the electricity provider during the Dec. 17 meeting.
General Manager Doug Miller explained, “This recommendation is based on, among other criteria, a review of proposed cost of living adjustments at other public power utilities and the need for a similar increase so as not to fall further behind.”
Commissioner Ron Hatfield (Dist. 3) said, “One of our biggest problems in the recent history was having to raise them 35 percent because we have not addressed this issue in a timely manner.”
Board President Diana Thompson (Dist. 2) seconded the motion to approve the increase when Commissioner Mike Swanson (Dist. 1) declined.
Swanson said, “I disagree, Ron, I think we have addressed the cost of living that time, but things were going badly with the economy; we didn’t raise the cost of living rates up sometimes, but the cost of living has been addressed, and I think it should be more in line with what the Social Security recipients are getting, which is 1.7 percent.”
Hatfield replied, “I guess it’s because I wasn’t elected to run Social Security; I was elected to run a PUD, and so it’s my feeling that when we look at their salaries, they’re not out of line with the rest of the industry.”
Swanson lauded PUD employees, but said there did not appear to be a mass exodus of workers from the utility because of wages.
Thompson said: “That’s a reasonable way to look at it. My concern is, I think we need to stay in line with the rest of the industry. I go back to where we advertised a long time for an engineer and couldn’t get anybody. And I’m afraid if we don’t stay with the rest of the industry we’ll find ourselves where we have to do another big catch up.”
Miller said electricity rates would not be affected by the wage increase. The 2015 budget includes a 3 percent increase due to anticipated Bonneville Power Administration increases in wholesale electricity rates and transmission costs.
“The budget you adopted at the last meeting, we’ll be able to manage this within that budget,” he said.
The resolution passed 2-1 with Swanson casting the dissenting vote.